All about Toriloka's Legend of Thor

Thor was born at Toriloka Kennels on April 15, 1995.
Thor died of cancer on December 15, 2008.

He was in a litter of six puppies, three girls and three boys. You can see his pedigree by clicking here.

When I was researching getting a dog I knew from the beginning that I wanted a boy so that narrows my selection from this breeder down to three. At 5 weeks I went to pick out a pup from the ones available. Joy Johns the breeder brought the three boys out to a small pen for me to have a look. One of the pups was being held back because he did not react well to the first round of shots they all got.

All three had distinct racoon masks, the original pup I picked up had a distinctive white slash down his forehead between his eyes and he was the largest of the boys. While I was holding this pup, The smallest pup was sitting very pretty looking up at me apparently wondering why he was sitting there all alone. Something told me that he was the one I was really supposed to be with so I changed my mind and swapped them.

I had never owned a dog before in my life, I had always lived in an apartment and didn't like the idea of having an active dog in an apartment environment. I knew while I was researching what breed would be my first dog when I got my house that it would be a Nordic breed. I love being outside in the winter and I needed a breed that could stand being out in the cold for long stretches. Also being Nordic, the dog would need a Nordic name and I am interested in mythology so the search was on for a Nordic mythological and majestic sounding name.

A few weeks before I was supposed to get Thor, I ruptured a disk in my back which pinched my Sciatica nerve causing unbelievable pain. I had not moved in to the house yet and had not got Thor yet. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to continue working for a living the pain was unbelievable. Taking a breath required huge amounts of pain killer.

I did a lot of investigating on how to resolve the problem and found that there was barely better than a 50/50 chance that surgery could solve the problem and even if it did, I would be laid up for weeks or months while I healed. I decided to take a chance on physiotherapy and chiropractic. I was so determined to get my house and my dog that I would do anything I could.

I found a young, eager chiropractor that was able to get me to at least stand upright and walk with only a minor amount of pain. I hoped that with this success I could get better to be able to do justice to have a Siberian Husky so pressed ahead and picked Thor up from the breeder. I hoped that between his need for activity and walks, and my need for physiotherapy and movement that we could at least come to a compromise.

Little by little as Thor grew up he began to be able to go for longer walks and I was able to tolerate longer walks. By the time Thor was old enough to go for really long walks, I was ready for them as well. My physiotherapist abandoned me when he found out I was going to see a chiropractor as well as forcing myself to go for walks with my puppy instead of laying in bed. My chiropractor always said he could not cure the problem, but was willing to do what he could for me to reduce the pain enough for me to take my dog for a walk around the block and that was the goal.

I owe a lot to Thor, by having him I am a fully functional person. Working for a living instead of existing on long term benefits laying in a bed screwed up on pain killers. I have not taken pain killers continuously for my blown disk and pinched nerve for almost 10 years and I owe it all to the need to be mobile to keep my Siberian Husky Thor happy. To see me now you would never know I have a problem, I have never had surgery. I do still feel a pinch of pain every once in a while I have have constant numbness down my right leg but I am completely mobile.

At out peak Thor, Loki and I would easily walk 10 Kilometers and hardly notice. To this day I still don't take the ability of walking for granted. I do it whenever I can. Doesn't sound like much until you can't do it.

First day home at 9 weeks. No collar or leash, that would soon change. He didn't earn the nickname "Scooter" for nothing. He wasn't big on being alone though and that became clearer as the weeks and months went by.

Thor looks Black and White but his Mom was a cinnamon/red and white colour. It does show in Thor. He has a big rusty spot on his belly that is always there. His head and neck area are always Black and White but he is a sun-worshiper and as the fur on his body sunburns, it turns a dark chocolate brown. It's really hard to see unless you see him in the sun but his fur does change colour the more it is exposed to the sun. As you will see below, the older he got his mask disappeared but he has an amazing slash of black down his nose and under his eyes. His markings are gorgeous, his overall look is very cute and he has always got a lot of attention from everyone.

What an energetic and happy pup. Except for being left alone during the work-day, he was an excellent puppy and always friendly with other people, kids and dogs.

He did have a very strong desire to hunt small, furry, fast mammals like squirrels, chipmunks and cats.

These pictures around 6 months of age.

 

Thor took to winter immediately. He loved the snow right from the beginning and to this day goes berserk when he sees the first major snowfall outside.

He's smarter than your average bear though, the picture on the right shows him sitting on the edge of a tire rut which is about 5 inches deep to rest from all the playing.

These pictures are at about 9 months of age.

 

Thor is a very, very social guy. He didn't like being left alone all day while I was at work. It became very clear that he needed someone to keep him company while the house was empty.

His past time became destroying toys. Even tennis balls were no match, the fuzz was shredded completely and the ball broken in half in no time.

I never found a toy that could stand up to Thor when he decided to go at it.

These pictures were taken at about 11 months of age. It was at this time that I started contacting Siberian breeders again to find a buddy for Thor. See Loki's story here.

Once I got Loki, the two of them were completely inseparable and the next 11 years are a story about the two of them together. Click here to check on them together.

Once Loki died I was very worried that Thor would not be able to do well on his own but he has been doing very well to this point. I am creating this webpage 5 months after Loki's death and Thor has been fine. My work situation has changed in that Thor is not left alone nearly as long as he was at the beginning and I think that helps a lot along with his maturity.

After all this time he's still an extraordinary dog. After what we went through with Loki, I decided in May of 2007 for his 12th birthday annual checkup to have a nose to tail health check done so that we would know what a normal, healthy Thor was.

The X-Rays showed a shadow or bulge on his heart. Two months later we did another set of X-Rays to see if this was part of his heart or was something else that was growing next to his heart. The second set of X-Rays appeared to show that the bulge was about 20% larger. Our Veterinarian Dr. Jody Mokler arranged for me to take Thor to a Veterinary Cardiologist Specialist to be checked out. A full Ultrasound was done along with a blood pressure test. There didn't appear to be anything wrong with the heart at all other than it was taller and thinner than a normal canine heart. Thor being the smallest in the litter, he is overall small for the breed standard and has a very narrow rib cage compared to other Siberians including Loki.

After not finding anything in the Ultrasound, a third set of X-Rays were done and the bulge/shadow that had appeared to be in or near his Pulmonary Artery can now not be seen. No explanation as to what it is or was but other than what was seen in the X-Ray, Thor never showed any symptom of anything being wrong. He always had tons of energy and drove me nuts to go out for walks. The only thing the X-Rays do show is a degenerating right hip which does appear to bother him when we go for longish walks but he still amazes almost everyone he meets who thinks he's a puppy only to find out he's over 12 years old.

What a remarkable dog. Am I ever glad I changed my mind back in 1995 when the litter was 5 weeks old and picked the little pup sitting in the pen at the breeders. I would have been lost without him.

 

Thor has always been a sun-worshiper any time of year even with all that fur and no matter how hot it is.

As I was writing this web page out on the picnic table, Thor was laying in the sun sound asleep on August 19th 2007.

He's done the same thing in both +40 and -40 degree Celsius weather with the sun beating down on him.

What a dog!



After Loki died of cancer on March 13, 2007, Thor seemed to go back in to the shell he was in when he was a puppy before Loki came in to the house. He was very quiet and no longer seemed to be the bright and cheerful guy he was as long as there was Loki. He also tended to always want to know where I was. He started to become very hard or hearing so if I was not in the room, or if he woke up out of a sleep and I was not there he would start looking for me.

It's kind of hard to tell if this was a natural thing because of his age or how much of an impact Loki really had on Thor. But there was no doubt things were different. He didn't go searching around the house for Loki and he didn't seem to be lost looking for him when we went on walks. He was just much quieter, much more low-key.

Life went on for about 14 months when one day I found Thor was very weak and had trouble standing. I took him to the vet and a very long process of trying to figure out what was going on with him began.

Between May and July 2008 we tried many things, he would seem to get better then have set-backs. Finally in July I asked our vet Dr. Mokler to arrange for whatever tests were necessary to determine once and for all exactly what was going on. Arrangements were made to go back to the same clinic in Downtown Toronto that had tested Loki but this time with a different set of specialists.

Thor's Cancer Story (Hemangiosarcoma)

After a set of X-Rays it was determined that Thor now also had the same cancer that Loki had but this time it was caught very early. It was clearly understood that Hemangiocarcoma is a terminal cancer so there would be a point in time where there would be no more treatments and that nothing could be done, but we chose to have surgery to remove the immediate threat and then when he had recovered enough from that surgery he would start on Chemotherapy for as long as that would help.

The odds for the Chemo were pretty wide. Some of this is all still very experimental with dogs but the range of survival was from no affect at all and he could still be gone in a matter of days or weeks, all the way out to 180 days or better.

Thor recovered very quickly from the surgery and he was on the Chemo within three weeks. The regime was quite extensive and he seemed to be doing very well on it. The dosage was dropped a little because he did seem to get pretty ugly diarhea and vomited from time to time. He seemed to still be eating fairly well although I had to start including some irresistible canned food in order to keep his interest in eating up.

Things were progressing fairly well through the end of the summer and in to the fall. A routine developed but he was still very weak. Since the entire episode started he was no longer able to climb the few steps to get in to the house so I put a ramp up covered in cleats and outdoor carpet and that did the trick.

I found myslef sleeping fairly lightly though all of this and sure enough one night in early November 2008 I heard a loud thud. I found Thor completely sapped of any energy to the point where he could not even lift his head. He seemed no weaker than he had been for several weeks when I went to be the night before, but now he was struggling to even breathe.

In a panic I took him to the local after-hours emergency vet clinic, explained to them what was going on and they started pumping IV in to him but apart from that they couldn't do anything. I called the clinic downtown and told them what happened and they instructed me to get him down there as fast as possible.

Off I shot with Thor laying in the back of the car with an IV bag hanging from the coat hook, racing to get downtown. Once at the clinic, they determined that he had developed pneumonia as a result of a weakened immune system from the Chemotherapy he was on. He was very weak, they kept him in intensive care for four days before I could take him home.

What a champ though, Thor just kept fighting. He recovered from the surgery very quickly and he again recovered from a very bad pneumonia that the vets told me may take two weeks in the matter of four days. He was still weak, but at least now he could stand and walk on his own. He was breathing much more easily than he was when the episode started. But the downside of the pneumonia was that we had to stop the Chemotherapy until his system recovered. That took the full two weeks, and the way the timing was working out it was closer to 17 days before I could get him back in to see the Oncologist to restart the Chemo.

In another assessment, they took another set of X-Rays to see how his lungs were doing and the results of those showed a new, large mass growing around his liver again. This of course was not a good sign at all. It had grown so rapidly and involved so deeply in to the liver that the Oncologist determined that there was nothing more that could be done. I asked him how much longer he thought Thor had and he said it would likely be a week, but no more than two.

This news came on December 13th, 2008. Doing the math it was looking like Thor was going to die right at Christmas. Not fair for him, and not fair for the family that he had been such a big part of. All we could do was wait and see.

Through the night of the 13th I was wakened by Thor howling and screaming in pain. I got up to find him laying on his side under the coffee table, unable to move and breathing very heavily. I slid him out from under the table as gently as I could and he was in obvious pain. He attempted to flip over from one side to his other and in doing so something internal shifted and he was screaming in pain again.

This was the "Quality of Life" piece that you always keep in mind as the owner of a Companion Animal. At what point do they no longer deserve what is happening to them and is it time to make very hard decisions? I never wanted to see either of the boys put in this situation and it was one of those things that I was aware of before I got Thor in the first place. Could I make the decision when it was needed. I didn't pursue a Veterinary career because of this inevitability. This situation what the one thing I feared more than anything else; helpless to make the pain stop and to see them in agony.

Unfortunately it was now Sunday the 14th and I could not reach Dr. Mokler. Jody has a very special way of dealing with this that I found out when the time came for Loki. On the one hand I didn't want Thor to suffer any more than he had to, but on the other I didn't want to put him through hell driving downtown to have that clinic do it, or the 24 hour emergency clinic who don't know Thor or I at all. I decided to try to keep him as comfortable as possible until Monday.

I upped his dose of pain killer as much as I guessed I could to not make anything worse for him and we managed to get through the day. The call to the vet's office on Monday was not as productive as I would have like either. The earliest I could get him in to have him put down was late in the afternoon so another long day of trying to keep him comfortable.

He seemed to be slightly more comfortable during the day on Monday but it was very clear that this was the end of the line. Jody once again did a wonderful job and Thor passed over Rainbow Bridge at about 3:30 in the afternoon on Monday December 15th 2008.


Epilogue

Before I got Thor I spent most of five months just trying to decide if I could deal with this aspect of having a dog in my life. I came to the conclusion that there were going to be millions of rewards to the experience of sharing my life with a dog that I could come to terms with the end as the one bad thing out of millions of great things and that was the balance.

I don't regret one second of any of the time I had with Thor and Loki. I can see myself again having one or more Siberian Huskies in my life again, but not for now. I still need some time to pass, and they did engulf my life so there are things I want to do where I won't have to feel guilty about leaving them.

So one day after I retire I'm fairly sure I'll have Siberians again. I can't see me not.

In the mean time I donate to the PetTrust University of Guelph Veterinary Research Centre in the hope that Hemangiosarcoma and all other Cancers that affect dogs will be cured in the mean time.



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